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the Eighth. The architect is said to have been John of Padua, an Italian, who, in the preceding reign, had held the appointment of "Devizer of His Majesty's buildings." The edifice extended no less than six hundred feet from east to west, by five hundred from north to south. It was commenced in April 1548, and, in less than four years afterwards, the Protector laid down his life on the block. "Possibly," says Pennant," the founder never enjoyed the use of this palace, for, in 1552, he fell a just victim on the scaffold." From the circumstance of the Duke's recommendatory preface to the "Spiritual Pearl," being dated from "oure house at Somerset Place," it has been thought that Pennant is mistaken in his conjecture. It must be borne in mind, however, that the title of "Somerset Place " may very possibly have been conferred, as was then customary, on some other temporary residence of the Duke.
By the attainder of the Protector, his palace came into the possession of the Crown. During the reign of Edward the Sixth, it appears to have been the occasional residence of his sister, the Princess Elizabeth, who, on her accession to the throne, permitted her first cousin, Henry Lord Hunsdon, to reside in it, and here she was not unfrequently his guest.
Lord Hunsdon breathed his last in Somerset House, on the 23rd July 1596. The refusal of his royal mistress to raise him to the Earldom of Wiltshire, is said to have had such an effect on his spirits as to have hastened his end. Elizabeth subse
quently relented, when it was too late. "When he lay on his death-bed," says Fuller, "the Queen gave him a gracious visit; causing a patent for the said earldom to be drawn; his robes to be made, and both laid on his bed. But this lord (who could not dissemble, neither well nor sick) replied, Madam, seeing you counted me not worthy of this honour, while I was living, I count myself unworthy of it, now I am dying.'"
For several succeeding generations, Somerset House continued to be set apart as the residence of the Queens of England. James the First, who greatly preferred the society of his favourites to that of his wife, permitted his consort, Anne of Denmark, to hold her court here; and here she gave those famous masques and entertainments, which, we are told, "made the nights more splendid than the days." Her court, according to Arthur Wilson, was "a continued Mascarado, where she and her ladies, like so many sea-nymphs or Nereids, appeared in various dresses, to the ravishment of the beholders." Apparently these costly entertainments were conducted with but little attention to morality or decorum; the Countess of Dorset informing us in her Memoirs that "the ladies about the court had gotten such ill names, that it was grown a scandalous place; and the Queen herself was much fallen from her former greatness and reputation she had in the world." Peyton's censure is even far stronger. "The masks and plays," he says, "were used only as incentives
for lust; wherefore the courtiers invited the citizens'
wives to those shows. There is not a chamber or lobby, if it could speak,but would verify this."
Somerset House is said to have been considerably enlarged and beautified by Anne of Denmark, and, in compliment to her, James the First desired that it should henceforward be styled Denmark House. Her death took place at Hampton Court on the 1st of March 1619, and on the 9th her body was conveyed by night to Somerset House, where it lay in state,—in the apartments which had recently been the scene of her frivolity and splendour,-till the 13th of May, when it was interred in Westminster Abbey. Here also subsequently lay in state, between the 23rd of April and the 17th of May 1625, the remains of her imbecile husband, King James.
On the marriage of Charles the First with Henrietta Maria, Somerset House was set apart as her jointure-house, and here the young Queen and her attendants were allowed that free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion, which gave so much offence to her husband's Protestant subjects. The fact is a startling one, that Henrietta's French retinue consisted of no less than four hundred and forty persons, among whom were as many as twentynine priests, marshalled by a wrong-headed young bishop, under the age of thirty. The insolent. manner in which these persons interfered in the domestic affairs of Charles,-the discords which they daily fomented between their royal master and mistress, as well as their own squabbles, and frivolous complaints of ill-usage and discomfort,
-at length occasioned such positive unhappiness to Charles, that he came to the determination of sending them at once out of the kingdom; even at the risk of exciting the passionate grief and indignation of his high-spirited queen, and of engaging himself in a war with the French King.
Having fully made up his mind on the subject, Charles, in the first instance, gave private instructions for their removal from Whitehall to Somerset House, from whence carriages were ordered to be in readiness to convey them to the sea-coast. Every preparation having been made for their departure, the King took upon himself the painful task of communicating to Henrietta the necessity of her parting with her favourites. On his entering her apartments, he beheld, we are told, to his great indignation, a number of Henrietta's light-hearted domestics, irreverently dancing and curvetting in her presence. Taking her by the hand, he led her into a private chamber, where he locked himself up with her alone. That which passed between them on the occasion was known only to themselves. It is certain, however, that the Queen's violence exceeded all bounds. She actually tore her hair from her head; and, in the violence of her rage, cut her hands severely by dashing them through the glasswindows.*
Charles, the same evening, presented himself before the assembled foreigners at Somerset House. After explaining the cogent reasons which com*Howell; Peyton; Ellis's "Orig. Letters."
pelled him to insist upon their departure from his court,―he condescended to ask their pardon if, in consulting his own happiness and peace of mind, he had interfered with their views and interests,-and concluded by informing them, that his Treasurer had received orders to remunerate every one of them for their year's service. The announcement of his intentions was met with suppressed murmurs and discontented looks. A Madame St. George, -a handsome and flippant French woman, who had rendered herself peculiarly obnoxious to Charles by interfering between him and the Queen,-took upon herself to act the part of spokeswoman on the occasion, but the King turned a deaf ear to her remonstrances, and peremptorily refused to alter his decision.
Notwithstanding the firmness of Charles, and his great anxiety on the subject, it is curious to find the French still domesticated at Somerset House after more than a month had elapsed from the time of their removal from St. James's. Excuse followed excuse, and delay succeeded to delay, till at length the King's patience was so entirely exhausted, that he issued positive orders to the Duke of Buckingham to drive them away, if necessary, "like so many wild beasts, until you have shipped them, and so the devil go with them." This mandate had the desired effect, and, accordingly, early in the month of August 1626, they took their unwilling departure from Somerset House. It required four days, and nearly forty carriages, to